This year, the Bay Area held their eighth annual powwow in Fort Mason, San Francisco to celebrate Two Spirit communities.
Two Spirit individuals are members of indigenous communities who are fluid with their gender and sexuality. There are several definitions of the word that differ between nations, but the term was adopted at the Intertribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian conference in Winnipeg in 1991.
The Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit organization (BAAITS), which organizes the annual powwow, aims to “restore and recover the role of Two Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the spiritual, cultural and artistic expression.”
Historically, indigenous communities document between three and seven genders. In modern Western societies, members of the LGBTQ community generally ‘come out’ to their loved ones. However, the Indigenous communities have members ‘come in’.
Harlan Pruden, a First Nations Cree activist, spoke to the BAAITS and said this ‘coming in’ process happens when an “Aboriginal person who is LGBTQ comes to understand their relationship, place, and value within their own family, community, culture, and history.”
Despite the rising awareness and support for indigenous culture, the Two-Spirit community has been excluded from this support as deep rooted behaviors of colonialism, assimilation, and isolation continue to persist.
Here are some photos of Two-Spirit indigenous expression and celebration throughout history: